Cy De Vry

It’s finally here, my post about Cy De Vry that’s been in the queue for months.

There is a very common card published by V.O. Hammon (pulling the image from CardCow below since I don’t own it for some reason) that shows Cy De Vry and Senator the lion in Lincoln Park, Chicago.

Cy De Vry And Senator In Lincoln Park Chicago Illinois

One day on eBay I found one of my now FAVORITE cards, which is a real photo card showing De Vry with two girls petting Senator. It was mailed on May 31, 1909 with the message “”Senator” was the lioness that Bob Fitzsimmons used in training.”


Bob Fitzsimmons was a British boxer, the first person to be a triple world champion. He even knocked out Jack Dempsey. He had a pet lion named Senator, perhaps this Senator, because what are the chances that there are two Bob Fitzsimmons’ out there with two lions named Senator.

But back to Cy.  He was the first director of the Lincoln Park Zoo, and reading through various articles about him, he sounds like quite the expert. A 1924 issue of Boys’ Life received the question “Where can I obtain a lemur?” The answer was “A dealer in monkeys should be able to secure one for you…Write Mr. Cy de Vry of the Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago, Ill.; he may be able to help you.” A Google image search reveals him with peccaries, elephants, monkeys, and more. Click here to see Cy holding baby beavers (which is my favorite part of the Lincoln Park zoo today!)

In 1912, under Cy’s supervision, a $160,000 animal palace began construction, built out of brick per his suggestion. “Mr. Lion and Mrs. Lion will will roar their approval of the new home. Mr. Tiger will do the same- only he will not roar- and the other ‘pets’ I know so well surely will find a way to show their appreciation,” he’s quoted as saying.

In 1915, Cy almost left Chicago when he was offered a salary of $7,800 per year from Col. William N. Selig, “the man who invented Hollywood.” Petitions came in for him to stay, and he decided to stay at Lincoln Park Zoo for $5,000 a year. More powerful than the petitions, though, was a boy who asked Cy if he was Cy De Vry, because if so, he wanted to shake hands with him.

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